Bismillah. This is one of my favorite things to read/hear about. I love the Companions of the Prophet. And I know Jamal Az Zarabozo’s An-Nawawi series are about the explanation of the hadith, but I really wish he had more on each of the companions. A short page on the life of a giant is just not right. Who knows? Maybe he’ll do a book on the Lives of the Sahabah 🙂 One can hope.
I’ll be honest and tell you that almost all of this is ripped straight out of Men Around the Messenger. I really wish I could Arabic so that I had more detailed books I could research from…
King of Hadith
Anyone who has ever heard a hadith in their life has probably heard of the companion Abu Hurayrah. Abu Hurayrah has related more hadith than any other companion – 5374, to be precise. But what’s even more amazing is that if you hear how many years he spent with the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) – which was every single day of his life since his acceptance of Islam till the Prophet’s death – you will be surprised that he passed on so much knowledge. Abu Hurayrah was only with the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) for four years of his blessed life.
Then how on earth, one may wonder, did he manage to memorize so many traditions of the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam)? Allah blessed him with an amazing memory. He was skilled in the art of listening and memorizing. He hardly forgot a word, no matter how much time had passed. He was not a scribe (who listened to and wrote what the Prophet said), so he had to memorize everything he heard the Prophet say by heart.
Abu Hurayrah was bought up an orphan. He emigrated as a poor man and worked for Busrah bint Ghazwaan for his daily food. He used to serve them until Allah married him to her.
It was in the year 7 A.H. that he accepted Islam, when the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) was in Khaybar. From the time he pledged allegiance to him, he didn’t part from him, but only to sleep. Believing that he embraced Islam late, Abu Hurayrah intended to compensate for that by accompanying and sitting with the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) every waking moment of his life—literally.
As we mentioned earlier, Abu Hurayrah was a poor man. He had neither trade nor commerce to keep him busy, no land to take care of, and so he never parted from the side of the Messenger of Allah. He lived in the Prophet’s masjid as one of the people known as ahl al-Suffa.
Abu Huraira said, The people say that Abu Huraira narrates too many narrations. In fact Allah knows whether I say the truth or not. They also ask, “Why do the emigrants and the Ansar not narrate as he does?” In fact, my emigrant brethren were busy trading in the markets, and my Ansar brethren were busy with their properties. I was a poor man keeping the company of Allah’s Apostle and was satisfied with what filled my stomach. So, I used to be present while they (i.e. the emigrants and the Ansar) were absent, and I used to remember while they forgot (the Hadith). One day the Prophet said, “Whoever spreads his sheet till I finish this statement of mine and then gathers it on his chest, will never forget anything of my statement.” So, I spread my covering sheet which was the only garment I had, till the Prophet finished his statement and then I gathered it over my chest. By Him Who had sent him (i.e. Allah’s Apostle) with the truth, since then I did not forget even a single word of that statement of his, until this day of mine. By Allah, but for two verses in Allah’s Book, I would never have related any narration (from the Prophet). (These two verses are): “Verily! Those who conceal the clear signs and the guidance which we have sent down …..(up to) the Merciful.’ (2.159-160)
Abu Hurayrah narrated so many hadith, not just because of his blessed, strong memory and the time in which he accompanied the Messenger of Allah, but because spreading those narrations was a responsibility.
Abu Hurayrah would stay with the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) so much so that he would not even take care of his own eating. Narrated Muhammad: We were with Abu Huraira while he was wearing two linen garments dyed with red clay. He cleaned his nose with his garment, saying, “Bravo! Bravo! Abu Huraira is cleaning his nose with linen! There came a time when I would fall senseless between the pulpit of Allah’s Apostle and `Aisha’s dwelling whereupon a passerby would come and put his foot on my neck, considering me a mad man, but in fact, I had no madness, I suffered nothing but hunger.” (Bukhari, Holding Fast to the Qur’an and Sunnah).
In order to be free to accompany the Messenger of Allah (PBUH), he suffered the cruelty of hunger like nobody else. He used to talk about the times when hunger was so cruel that he would put a stone on his stomach, press his liver with his hand, and fall in the mosque while twisting that stone such that some of his friends thought that he was epileptic, but he was not.
Al Bukhaariy (May Allah be pleased with him) said, “Almost eight hundred or more Companions, followers (the generation after the Companions) and people of knowledge narrated through Abu Hurairah.” Thus, Abu Hurairah was an immortal school.
Once Marwaan Ibn Al-Hakam wanted to examine Abu Hurairah’s ability to memorize. He invited him to sit with him and asked him to narrate about the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) while a scribe sat behind a screen and was told to write whatever Abu Hurairah said. After a year, Marwaan invited him once again and asked him to narrate the same traditions the scribe had written. Abu Hurairah had not forgotten a single word!
After the death of the Prophet sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, Abu Hurayrah was a governor during the time of ‘Umar’s khilaafa (caliphate). He died in the year 59 A.H., at the age of 78. He is buried in Al Baqi’.
Returning from his funeral, the people kept reciting many of the traditions that he had taught them about the noble Messenger. One of the recent Muslims asked his friends, “Why was our deceased sheikh called Abu Hurairah?” His friend answered, “In the pre Islamic time his name was `Abd Shams. When he embraced Islam, the Messenger called him `Abd Ar-Rahman. He used to be sympathetic towards animals. He had a cat that he used to feed, carry, clean, and shelter, and it used to accompany him as if it were his shadow. Thus, he was called Abu Hurairah, which means father of the small cat. May Allah be pleased with him.”